Charlotte, NC

Tuesday in Charlotte: School suggestions and CMS' new super, NC slams nurse home, COVID-19 data

Collin Cunningham

By Collin Cunningham

(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) Happy Tuesday, Charlotteans! Today's Roundup engages with education, recounting recommendations from a North Carolina education panel for the state's Department of Public Instruction to improve students' grades. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools students are prescribing their own wish lists for new interim Superintendent Hugh Hattabaugh, who took over this week after former leader Earnest Winston's departure.

Turning from learning to health, a state investigation found complaints of patient abuse at a rest home in Salisbury to be true and slammed the health center in a report, while data shows metrics concerning COVID-19 are again rising in Mecklenburg County and the Tar Heel State. It is Tuesday, April 26, and here's what residents of the Queen City need to know until tomorrow.

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1. Education suggestions: Hunt-Lee Commission lays out learning goals in NC

What happened: Students in North Carolina may get higher grades if educators step in earlier in their lives, according to a recommendation report released Monday by the Hunt-Lee Commission, a bipartisan organization consisting of 35 educators from the Old North State.

Across 16 specific solutions, the HLC's 36-page final report lists recommendations for the state to expand the capacity of early childhood development programs, offer more options for subsidized child care and remove barriers between children and NC Pre-K. For students who are later in life, the group suggests the state offer resources to help smooth their transition between middle and high school and make it easier to access reduced in-state tuition rates, WFAE reports.

Zooming out: Formed in August of 2021 by former North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt's The Hunt Institute, the commission is considered a "blue-ribbon panel" due to the high level of oversight held by its members. Involved educators include the ex-state leader as well as Kisha Clemons, principal of Newton-Conover City Schools' Shuford Elementary School, and Eric Davis, who chairs the North Carolina State Board of Education.

Davis told WRAL the recommendations will next be sent to his board for review and a final vote before the state starts implementing them.

2. Hattabaugh at the helm: Former CMS interim superintendent steps into old role with new problems

What happened: When Hugh Hattabaugh returned to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools on Monday, he stepped into a set of shoes that may have felt familiar: those of the interim superintendent. Hattabaugh served as a temporary superintendent between 2011 and 2012, and now he's back for another one-year stint after the district terminated former Superintendent Earnest Winston's employment last week.

Between the fired superintendent and the hired one, the district will spend almost $842,000 — a 2021 contract extension requires CMS to pay Winston nearly $577,000 for his termination, while Hattabaugh signed a $265,000 contract that will keep him through June of 2023. During the last 44 days remaining in the school year after Monday, he is expected to address reports of sexual assaults, guns brought to campus and the rollout of safety measures.

What students want: Speaking to CMS students, WBTV learned that outspoken students are particularly concerned about the 40 district schools with low test scores and urged the board to fast-track the district's "Transformation Plan," which Winston put on pause.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education has seen 11 superintendents weave their way in and out of the district since 1995.(Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education/Faccebook)

What the board wants: When the 10 members of the CMS Board of Education convene between 6 and 9 p.m. for their regular meeting on Tuesday, the group will vote on the district's proposed budget of nearly $2 billion and a $41 million request to expand it using Mecklenburg County money.

Of those dollars, $8 million would supplement teacher pay, $6 million would improve pay for educators' assistants and $5 million would upgrade maintenance and building infrastructure. Another $3.7 million would help non-English speakers learn the language.

Readers can tune into Tuesday's meeting at the board's Facebook page. While some community stakeholders have sided against Winston in the matter, calling him underqualified to lead the district's over 140,000 students, others believe the board may be to blame.

3. NC health dept. hammers Salisbury nursing home as state looks to address staff shortages

What happened: The Citadel Salisbury nursing home is experiencing strife across its 180 beds after the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services found in an investigation that the care facility had behaved negligently and abusively toward paying residents. The state health department's 169-page report on the matter documents missed showers, improper medication distribution and hospitalizations stemming from improper bandage laundering.

Studying staffing: Conducted between Feb. 18 and March 4, the investigation's findings link issues at the home to a staffing disparity that left too few employees to care for residents at Citadel Salisbury, which was the target of a class-action court case in 2021 after a COVID-19 outbreak resulted in 189 cases and 18 deaths, per WCNC.

Those results dovetail with similar findings from the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services, which found that 171 of North Carolina's 427 licensed nursing homes have staff shortages among nurses and aides as well as clinical and other employees, according to WFAE.

4. 60% surge: NC sees increase in COVID-19 cases

Low case figures have kept the coronavirus away from the Roundup for over a month, but a 60.7% increase between the weeks of April 10 to 17 and April 17 to 24 brings it back. The former period brought 5,234 new cases while the more recent had 8,409, putting North Carolina in the number 25 spot among the states with the fastest transition levels.

Hospitalization data from the North Carolina Department of Human Services, released April 20, shows 278 inpatients due to COVID-19 between April 9 and 16, an increase of 36 cases from the week starting April 2.

Of North Carolina's 100 counties, Mecklenburg County was the second-highest contributor to last week's caseload, adding 1,034 cases, or approximately 12.2% of the state's total, behind Wake County's 1,494 new infections.

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I cover the city of Charlotte, North Carolina for NewsBreak's Creator Program. Check back often for daily headline roundups to learn what's happening in the Queen City!

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